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Rites of Execution : Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture, 1776-1865 - Louis P. Masur

Rites of Execution

Capital Punishment and the Transformation of American Culture, 1776-1865

Paperback Published: 30th May 1991
ISBN: 9780195066630
Number Of Pages: 224

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Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, Western societies abandoned public executions in favor of private punishments, primarily confinement in penitentiaries and private executions. The transition, guided by a reconceptualization of the causes of crime, the nature of authority, and the purposes of punishment, embodied the triumph of new sensibilities and the reconstitution of cultural values throughout the Western world. This study examines the conflict over capital punishment in the United States and the way it transformed American culture between the Revolution and the Civil War. Relating the gradual shift in rituals of punishment and attitudes toward discipline to the emergence of a middle class culture that valued internal restraints and private punishments, Masur traces the changing configuration of American criminal justice. He examines the design of execution day in the Revolutionary era as a spectacle of civil and religious order, the origins of organized opposition to the death penalty and the invention of the penitentiary, the creation of private executions, reform organizations' commitment to social activism, and the competing visions of humanity and society lodged at the core of the debate over capital punishment. A fascinating and thoughtful look at a topic that remains of burning interest today, Rites of Execution will attract a wide range of scholarly and general readers.

Industry Reviews

"If the past can speak to the present, no recent book about nineteenth-century American speaks more clearly than Rites of Execution....[It] is the work of a historian ingenious with sources, rich in imagination and mature in judgment."--The Nation "Good integrated text in cultural history."--Jonathan Rottenberg, Johns Hopkins University "The debate over capital punishment continued then as it does today. Rites of Execution, however, is an excellent place to begin a search for a thoughtful, penetrating analysis of the cultural and social origins related to this issue."--History: Reviews of New Books "Masur adds a chapter to the history of changing ideas on, and practices of, captial punishment in postrevolutionary America."--Journal of American History "This scholarly study of capital punishment in antebellum America is as timely as today's newspaper headline. Combining a gripping narrative with penetrating analysis, it sheds new light on attitudes toward crime, punishment, reform, and society from the Revolution to the Civil War."--James M. McPherson, Princeton University "[An] intelligent, informative, nonpartisan, and eminently readable discussion of this life-or-death matter in American history."--CHOICE "A timely book about an old problem--how to get rid of those who threaten society. The book takes a fresh look at an insoluble dilemma, how decently to impose the death penalty. It is well written, historically original and a challenge to current penology."--Stanley Katz, American Council of Learned Societies "The most ambitious attempt since Rothman to retrieve early American penal reform from the margins of scholarly discourse....Elegantly conceived and tidily executed."--William and Mary Quarterly "An important addition....Enriches our understanding of the antebellum debate over capital punishment by discussing the defenders as well as the opponents of such punishment....An excellent piece of scholarship. It merits a wide audience and is required reading for any one interested in the history of deviancy, crime, and punishment."--American Historical Review "A wide-ranging, ambitious, and well-crafted study....A major contribution to early nineteenth-century cultural history."--Journal of Social History "Interesting and helpful....One of the contributions of the book is its demonstration of the relevance of the institutions of penal justice to an understanding of the society of which they are a part."--The American Journal of Legal History "A striking work of cultural history...describes how criminal punishment came to be an event conducted in 'private' spaces. It should become essential reading for anyone interested in the debate over capital punishment, and it convincingly locates many of our own confusions about crime in the cultural transformations of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries...Masur tells a powerful, sharply drawn, and morally complex story filled with mobs, moralistic preachers, diverse law reformers, apologetic and defiant criminals, and the changing public rituals of state sanctioned terror and capital punishment."--Hendrik Hartog, University of Wisconsin Law School

Introductionp. 3
Ritual and Reform in Antebellum Americap. 9
The Design of Public Executions in the Early American Republicp. 25
The Opposition to Capital Punishment in Post-Revolutionary Americap. 50
The Dream of Reformation and the Limits of Reformp. 71
The Origins of Private Executions in Americap. 93
Anti-Gallows Activists and the Commitment to Moral Reformp. 117
The Conflict over Capital Punishment in Antebellum Americap. 141
Epiloguep. 160
Notesp. 165
Indexp. 199
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195066630
ISBN-10: 0195066634
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 224
Published: 30th May 1991
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 21.13 x 13.61  x 1.65
Weight (kg): 0.29

Earn 112 Qantas Points
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